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Curse Of The Small Sample Size: Crystal Palace Upset Chelsea With Few Premier League Ramifications

Monday 3rd April 2017
We could do a top ten list for clichés applicable to Chelsea's Saturday defeat at home to Crystal Palace. It was a blip on the radar. An aberration. On paper Chelsea was by miles the better side but that's why you play the games. You get the idea. What's important, however, is the club named for a glass house hit the mark with one more stone, kicked rather than thrown, than the Blues. And nobody saw that coming. So aside from another tired cliché, like the Premier League is the most competitive league on the planet, what can we take away from the fact Sam Allardyce's relegation threatened Palace upset Chelsea at Stamford Bridge?
First and foremost, not much changed atop the Premier League table. Tottenham and Liverpool closed ground with respective victories over Burnley and Everton but Arsenal, Manchester City, and United only drew, the first two against one another. Chelsea therefore maintain a seven-point lead over Spurs, ten over the Reds.

As a chastened Michael Jones points out despite having picked the Blues to romp, Antonio Conte's side could drop another nine points in their remaining nine matches and Spurs would have to win out to overtake them. The former is possible although Conte repeatedly showed he knew how to finish a season at Juventus. The latter is possible, too. Spurs must still face Arsenal and Manchester United but both contests take place at White Hart Lane.

Is either possibility likely? The respective answers are no and hell no. While it may be easy to poke fun at a colleague for suggesting Cesc Fàbregas start for Chelsea because defending against Palace wasn't a serious priority, and therefore question his next opinion, it's important to remember Conte came to exactly the same conclusion regarding Fàbregas and the Italian didn't fill his trophy cabinet by making mistakes twice.

Chelsea may falter. Spurs may win out to become the second-most unlikely Premier League Champions ever. Just don't bet on it.
In the Premier League cellar, other results brought change more so than the match at Stamford Bridge. Swansea and Middlesbrough's draw, and Sunderland's defeat, saw those three clubs enter more dire straits because Hull beat West Ham. The Swans have dropped within reach of the Tigers' claws. Boro and the Mackems are now respectively two and three results from safety. Hull can trade places with Swansea on Wednesday with another home win over Middlesbrough and the Welsh side dropping points against visiting Spurs.

The Eagles' win maintained their four-point cushion over Hull but it does have them flying higher than the Swans. Not much higher, mind. Should Swansea somehow upset Spurs (stop smiling Señor Conte) while Palace fail to get a result at St Mary's, Big Sam's side will be right back on the brink, especially should Hull win. There will be no sneaking up on Southampton, either. Claude Puel will surely clue his players in to Palace's good fortune if they don't already keep a weather eye on rivals' progress. The South Coast side will be well prepared whereas Allardyce may lose valuable time curbing his ebullient squad's enthusiasm.

So, the Premier League title remains very much within Chelsea's grasp. The drop zone still threatens Palace. If we want to go all Shakespeare with our clichés, and I mean Old Bill, not Craig, although Leicester continued to roll along with a two-goal win at the King Power over Mark Hughes' Stoke City, we can safely conclude that when Crystal Palace upset Chelsea, Saturday, it caused much ado about nothing.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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